JABAL AL AKHDHAR, Oman (VN) — Chris Froome’s march into the leader’s jersey on Thursday in the Tour of Oman was the confidence boost he needed, said Sky teammate Bradley Wiggins.
“For Chris, it’s about the rest of the team having confidence in him,” Wiggins told VeloNews. “He took that leadership on when we came to this race, saying, ‘Yeah, I’ll do that.’”
This time last year, Wiggins was on the verge of winning the time trial and riding into third overall in the Volta ao Algarve (Tour of the Algarve). He took the Tour de France title, the first Brit to do so, five months later in Paris.
Froome helped Wiggins achieve the goal and placed second overall. They both were miles ahead of their rivals. Italian Vincenzo Nibali threatened them, but placed nearly three minutes behind Froome and twice as much behind Wiggins.
Since then, Froome has been talking about 2013.
Wiggins will race the Giro d’Italia this year before considering the Tour. Froome, therefore, should be the team’s captain for the Tour.
As Froome acknowledged on Thursday, it is only February, but the Tour of Oman is a crucial test.
The Kenya-born Brit left grand tour winners Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff), Nibali (Astana), and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) on Thursday at Green Mountain. If he stitches up the overall, his first GC win, he will prove that he is ready to accept greater responsibility.
It is a confidence boost, explained Wiggins.
“Oh, for sure, yeah, without a doubt,” Wiggins said. “I think Chris will be the first to admit he’s nowhere near his best yet, so for him to do that [on Thursday] shows he’s well on track.”
Wiggins transitioned fully from track star to GC rider in 2009 when he finished fourth in the Tour with Garmin. He was steering towards the overall in 2011, but a crash stopped him. Last year, he received a boost by winning several stage races en route to the Tour — Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie, and Critérium du Dauphiné.
“For me, it was important to lead the races. I recognized from the years before that that was something I needed to do, whereas I’m on a completely different thing this year,” he said.
The Tour of Oman marks one of Wiggins’ rare race appearances prior to lining up in Naples May 4 for the Giro.
After Oman wraps up Saturday, he heads to altitude camp on the Spanish island of Tenerife. Ahead of the Giro, he will start the Volta a Catalunya (Tour of Catalonia), the Giro del Trentino (Tour of Trentino), and possibly Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
But Wiggins is working for Froome first.
Sky faces a 155km stage to Boshar on the seafront on Friday. It features three repeats of the short and nasty Bousher Alamrat climb.
“[Friday] will be difficult, but this is where we’re at our best, when we’re in this position as a team,” Wiggins said. “We know what we need to do [on Friday] and Chris has showed today that he has the legs to do it.”
The overall win may follow, but, according to Wiggins, Thursday’s red-jersey performance was more important for Froome’s yellow aspirations.
“I don’t know if he needs the overall win. He needs performances like [Thursday],” Wiggins said. “With that heat and against that opposition, they don’t come much harder.”